This morning, my hospital rounds brought me to the ICU once more. Topher was sent there after being brought down to the wards the week before. He celebrated his 12th birthday in the hospital and I wanted to check if he got the gift I sent him. He was jolly despite the gloomy surroundings. But he was also worried because he had blisters all over his wrists and legs. Somehow, he developed an alergic reaction to the micropore tape nurses use to hold his IV lines. Visiting Topher is always a bliss. He's so talkative and cheerful that you'd never guess that he is seriously ill (he has end stage chronic renal disease and needs a transplant to save his life).
I think the ICU is the saddest place on earth. So many sick kids and it makes you feel helpless. Everywhere, you hear alarm bells ringing and nurses scampering to aid a seriously ill patient. Parents are not allowed inside the ICU so the kids there are all by themselves. Aside from Topher, there were other patients that we visited like this young girl who was admitted for chronic anemia but developed severe infections afterwards. Tubes run all over her comatose body. Another teenager is comatose for viral encepalitis and this morning I witnessed him suffer from seizures. In the intermediate ICU, one of my patients Ian was also seriously ill. Just last week he was bubbly and healthy. This week, he's attached to so many tubes that you hardly recognize him.
I left the ICU with a heavy heart. My head was also pounding. It drains me to see these young children suffer so much. But perhaps what drains me more is knowing that there's nothing I can do about it.
Then I remember Topher's smile. And it gives me hope-- that maybe someday the other kids would also smile like him. And maybe it's not futile to visit the ICU after all. I just life would be a little less sad for these kids.